You may think you know how to use body language when speaking. But do you have the skills to protect yourself from a hungry podium?
You’re aware that speaking in public can be exhilarating and rewarding, right? In fact, you probably already know that delivering an important speech or presentation can be wonderfully career-enhancing.
But were you aware of the dark side of public speaking? I'm talking about the speech-related objects and props that will eat you alive if given half a chance.
Note cards, projectors, laptops, and microphones all fall in this category. But for sheer aggression and potential for lasting damage, nothing beats . . . the podium.
The podium! The very symbol of public humiliation and thwarted ambitions! Yes: those blocky monsters that prevent access to one's listeners and love to gobble speakers whole. But don't despair. Here are 5 Essential Rules of Survival to follow, should you find yourself locked in mortal combat with one of these voracious creatures.
And while you're already here and in a self-protective mode, don't forget to download my guide for presenters, "The Body Language Rules: 12 Ways to Be a More Powerful Speaker."
Survival Rule # 1 – Keep both feet planted firmly on the floor, even if your audience can’t see them. If you lean on one leg—or worse, cross your feet—you will look and feel unstable. That’s bad enough. But lecterns have been known to bite off the appendages of people who leave a foot or leg wandering on its own.
Survival Rule #2 – Gesture frequently with your hands and arms so the lectern doesn’t realize you’re scared. If you remain too still, a mature lectern will either: a) think you are made of wood like it is, and attempt to absorb you completely; or b) realize that you are frozen in place from fear and therefore unable to defend yourself. It will then immediately initiate hostile actions.
Survival Rule # 3 – If you make the unwise choice to keep your arms completely still, at least place one hand lightly on either side of your manuscript. Don’t let your hands disappear completely from view (see Rule #1 about vulnerable appendages). Leaning heavily on the lectern itself, on the other hand, will make you appear truculent or drunk, and the added pressure will make the lectern very angry.
Survival Rule # 4 – Do not grasp the front or sides of a lectern with a grip that turns your knuckles white. Apparently, white knuckles appear to be a particular delicacy for lecterns.
Survival Rule # 5 – Step away from the lectern occasionally if the speech situation allows it. It will help your engagement with your audience if you can eliminate the physical barrier between you and them. But much more critically . . . you’ll have a head start of a step or two if those jaws open wiiiiiide.